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Confederation in Newfoundland.
The Government of Newfoundland, more adventurous than that of this Province, has ventured to grapple with the question of Confederation. The proposed Union of the British North American Colonies takes a prominent place in the Speech with which the Lieutenant Governor opened the Legislative Session on the 30th ult., and is as follows:
"The proposed Union of the British Provinces in North America continues to engage the anxious solicitude and friendly interest of Her Majesty's Government. Dispatches from the Secretary of State upon this subject will be laid before you. Believing, as I do, that the abstract advantages of union, upon general principles, must be so obvious as to be almost necessarily acknowledged, it would appear that any questions which may be raised can only affect the terms upon which it may be possible equitably to accomplish such a union as would be desirable. I am satisfied that Her Majesty's Imperial Government, as well as the Governments of the other Provinces, will receive and consider with courteous attention any proposals that you may think fit to offer on this subject. That the completion of the Union between the other Provinces is certain, and will only be a matter of time and arrangement, most thoughtful persons are convinced. It may become an affair of vital consequence to this community not to fall into an isolated position in the final settlement, which cannot fail to exercise the greatest influence on the future of all the British possessions in North America."
Governor Musgrave may or may not be right in the opinion he has volunteered on behalf of "most thoughtful persons," that the "completion of the Union between the other Provinces," - Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, - "is certain." Time, in some cases, certainly does work wonders; but after a pretty thorough survey of the entire Colonial field, we certainly cannot find the slightest foundation for the correctness of the statement of His Excellency. We well know the difficulties to be encountered and overcome before any Union can be effected in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, probably far better than those who prepared the Speech from the Throne; but confining ourselves to our own Province, we confidently ask, Where are the "thoughtful persons," of character and position in Nova Scotia, who would hazard the assertion that there is the most remote chance of the proposed Union being carried, if the wishes and interests of our people are consulted? Governor Musgrave's bold assertion with respect to the sentiments of other Colonies, may deceive the people of Newfoundland, necessarily ignorant of public opinion in the sister Provinces, but better informed persons only laugh at such utterances as those to which we have referred.
The debate on the Address in reply to His Excellency's Speech continued until the 16th, seventeen days, when the following response was made in answer to the paragraph quoted above, which was carried by a majority of twelve: -
"On the important question of Confederation, in recognizing the solicitude of Her Majesty's Government for the welfare of this Colony, we concur in the view of Your Excellency, that the abstract advantages of union are so obvious as to be almost necessarily acknowledged, whilst, with regard to this Colony, and on the details of so grave a measure, it is natural that much diversity of opinion should prevail. This is a matter which shall engage our serious attention."
The majority were in favor of Union in the "abstract," and nothing more. They have no idea of committing themselves to the Quebec scheme, or any other scheme at present. Upon a question of such great importance the Assembly were not prepared to commit themselves. "Much diversity of opinion," they may, "prevails," especially with respect to the details of the measure, which will engage their serious attention hereafter. "This Resolution," says the Newfoundlander of the 19th inst, "leaves the question open for further consideration, which seems a wise course, seeing that no definite action has yet been taken in the other Provinces."
The question of Confederation was also fully debated in the Legislative Council, and after several amendments to the address were moved, the following clause, proposed by Hon. R. J. Pinsent, was carried: -
"Upon the question of the proposed Confederation of the British North American Colonies, while recognizing the policy of union as a sound political principle, we are of opinion that important modifications of the present terms of the proposed Confederation are indispensable, and that assurances should be given which it does not now contain; and we feel confident of the aid of Her Majesty's Government in the promotion of this object, and that the necessary steps will be taken with the other British Provinces for the more deliberate consideration of a measure of such radical importance before it will be definitely submitted for determination to the Legislature of this Colony."
Mr. Pinsent, in the course of his address to the House, said:
"Many were apprehensive that our men would be called upon and compelled to serve in protection and defense, far away from their homes and families. The confederationists are strong in their denial of even the probability of such a contingency, and while he felt disposed to assent to that belief he must at the same time say that it would be gratifying to the community to have some substantive assurance that such a demand would never be made upon them, nor such an obligation imposed. If it be not the intention, or if there be no probability of such powers ever being exercised, where then can be the difficulty of giving the colony positive guarantees to that effect, and relieving the confederate project of a false and unfair position. Great care was taken by the delegates to ensure inter-communication with the Northwestern territory, and to perfect the intercourse and means of trade between the Canada's and the continental colonies, by insisting upon the necessity of constructing the inter-colonial railroad and perfecting the canal system so vastly advantageous to them - while we who, on account of our insular position, would benefit little or nothing thereby, notwithstanding that our revenues would be to their support, are denied even an assurance of communication by steam, either inter-colonial or transatlantic."
Mr. Pinsent urges the necessity of a new Convention, and takes the constitutional ground, that before any arrangement is accepted the people should be appealed to.
"In this view it was our bounden duty to express and urge our opinions, and no time more fitting than now to point attention of Imperial authorities and Maritime Provinces to the necessity for a new convention upon a fairer basis, to be considered without delay and to be submitted for the approval of the constituencies before the next election. He held that before any conditions were finally accepted, the Legislature should appeal to the country and instruct it upon the exact nature of the compact it was proposed for ever to bind it to."
DESBARRES, Hon. A. W.
|The Morning Chronicle is now known as the Halifax Herald. My source was the NLC (National Library of Canada) film No. N-6595. - Jeff Veinotte|
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